Accessability Links


Thursday 11th April 2019

In this Q&A we hear from three women driving a more diverse workforce across the UK.

Lyndsey Britton, Lynsey Harbottle and Sharon Mckee are the team behind 50:50 Future. The 50:50 mission is to achieve gender equality in the workplace.

They do this by helping organisations get the balance right. Their unique approach engages everyone to ensure they have a culture that embraces gender equality and leads to improved recruitment, retention and reputation – and a better business!

Read all about their journey, why equality should be a priority for all businesses and their plans for the future below...

Who are 50:50 future and how did the journey begin?

We’re a small, but perfectly formed team who have worked in the digital sector, with a range of organisations from start-ups to global corporate companies, for many years.

While running a co-working space we started to reach out to women and young girls through events to mark occasions, like Ada Lovelace Day and International Women’s Day. The feedback we had proved there was a clear appetite for some kind of support and programmes.  

We were approached by one company to support their female managers as they had issues with women not progressing in the organisation, as many do. We delivered a CPD course for them and ran another one involving more women from other organisations.  We monitored and evaluated these, and found that over 61% of women progressed within just a couple of months of finishing our course.

Utilising our experience and expertise, we developed and piloted further workshops and programmes, and are leading the way to help organisations cultivate an inclusive culture and values that both benefit women and men, future generations, and the workforce and workplace as a whole.

LB: I was a co-founder of Ignite, one of Europe’s leading accelerator programme, and also ran Campus North in Newcastle where Ignite was originally based. I co-founded Tech for Life CIC which evolved from putting on events at Campus and we delivered coding and skills for children and young people. What has become 50:50 initially started when we focused on events to support young women in STEM.

LH:  My background was initially in sales and SAAS. I joined Lyndsey’s team running Campus North and then Tech for Life. During this time my role as Sales & Marketing, securing funding for Campus North through membership and sponsorship and delivering many different events for young people around coding and skill, including a national project on behalf of Sage UK. 

I originally trained and worked as a journalist before going into a career in PR. After heading up corporate communication teams for regional and national organisations, I set up my own consultancy. I supported the team at Campus North and Tech for Life on a freelance basis with communications, PR and business support before joining them to become part of 50:50.

Do you have your own experiences that prompted you to move forward with the 50:50 Future vision?

We all have a variety of experiences and views which is great because we are always exploring and curious about different perspectives. The idea for 50:50 grew really organically having been involved in supporting more young women into the tech and digital sector and supporting women to progress in their careers. We’ve taken everything that we’ve learned through delivering programmes, workshop and support and developed a really strong, unique way of helping companies get better gender balance in the workforce.  

It’s no secret that in the digital industry, males far outnumber female employees. From your experience at 50:50, what are the common factors contributing to this?

It’s pretty complex, factors range from recruitment processes through to company culture – many companies who pride themselves on attracting as many female applicants as male still often see that women they hire then don’t progress and still end up with that gender imbalance at more senior levels. One of the important things to acknowledge and be aware of is that it is often unconscious rather than deliberate bias that really contributes to inequality.  Awareness and confidence to challenge bias and the status quo are key to making changes, as is real understanding and buy-in at the top.

Why should equality in the workplace be such an important issue for businesses operating today?

Equality isn’t a ‘nice thing to do’ or a tick box exercise – it is a real business issue. There is enough evidence and research now that unequivocally proves that those businesses who have genuine gender balance and diversity out-perform others – the bottom line is that equality equals more profits! It should be a no brainer. 

50:50 Future believes "Equality is by, and for, everyone." Men need to be supported and involved just as much as females in order to achieve equality. How are your programmes working to support both genders?

We trialled women-only programmes and while there is a place for gender-specific support, what we know is that for businesses, the culture and behaviours really need to change – and to do that men have to be involved. We know equality has to stop being seen as a ‘womens’ only’ issue and we found that those men keen to be part of the change said they don’t always know how to do that or what to say, so our programmes, workshops, and membership that includes support like mentoring are for both women and men. We have men working with us as ambassadors and contributors, so bringing an understanding and viewpoint which helps us identify barriers and actions that can be taken by everyone to help improve gender balance in the workplace.

How have your programmes helped businesses so far achieve equality?

Businesses need to see achieving gender balance as a long term issue, it involves cultural and behavioural change and there is no overnight solution. That’s why we have developed our annual membership to offer ongoing support for companies and their employees that means they can get access to peer to peer and expert help when they need it. When we piloted our programmes with one company, we found that over 60% of women who participated had successfully progressed within three months of the programme finishing. The content of this programme is one of the online CDP courses we will be offering.

What are 50:50 Future’s plans for the rest of 2019 and beyond?

We’re really excited about this year and the future! We are starting to work with some amazing organisations, having reiterated and developed our new corporate partnership package. We are also now offering membership to individuals, which means smaller companies and anyone who wants to, can also benefit and access support – and we will be developing our online platform to include more training, courses and CPD programmes. We’re going to be able to offer 50:50 support across the whole of the UK – and beyond!

 Find out more about 50:50 Future and how your business could benefit by clicking here.
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